CannonTour - The Armies of Summer (Wildland Firefighting) Pt 1/3

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 12 Continued

    Winthrop and Twisp

    Heading back south from the 30 Mile through Winthrop and Twisp on the way to the fatal Twisp Fire.
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    Winthrop was an 1880s gold rush town. In 1972 they decided to remake themselves to look that way.
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    Three Fingered Jack's is a place to go I'm told.
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    The town burned once before. A flood took out a bridge as well.
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    Twisp is just down the road. Look for a vintage farm truck on poles being used as a billboard. The grocery store in Twisp has a lot of taxidermy mounts throughout the store.
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    Heading west toward the fire scene. I see we are moving water around the neighborhood.
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    I'll get to the fire in the next post, but for now here is an interesting video related to the fire that shows some firefighting and equipment. The Twisp Fire was actually part of a group of fires in the same area called the Okanogan Complex Fire.

  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 12 Continued

    Twisp Fire/Fatalities

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    There were several lightning caused fires in the area. The Twisp fire was one of several in the area that made up the Okanogan Complex Fire. The Twisp Fire was started when a power line contacted a tree. It eventually blew up.
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    This video gives an overview. Engine 642 had three fatalities and one badly burned firefighter. You can hear the voice of an Engine 642 crewman on the video.


    I rode up the road where the fatalities and some other events took place. There used to be a number of houses up there. Now most of the houses are gone and the road thins out to nothing.
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    I read about the fire and I looked at the aerial imagery. I still didn't appreciate how narrow and prone to mishap this road was until I rode it.
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    I tried to imagine the engine drivers trying to navigate this road (which drops off) through smoke and fire.
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    This road dead-ends so if the fire cuts it you are trapped.
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    I was looking for the sites of the houses as landmarks for some of the things I read in the report. This used to be a house.
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    This too.
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    This road was certainly difficult to follow in the smoke and fire.
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    Engine 642 lost their way in the smoke and fire and went over the edge. One firefighter fled the engine and went through a wall of flame. He was badly burned and spent painful months in the hospital. Three others died in the engine.
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    Someone else fleeing through the fire in an engine reported that the heat was intense. The steering wheel felt hot and they were waiting for the windows to burst.
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    The guy that fled the engine, who was burned and survived, was found running down the road yelling for help.
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    There was a dozer crew working at the far end of the road trying to save some houses. Two firefighters and a contract dozer operator. As the fire approached, they went into a garage to try to escape the heat.

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    When the garage became too hot, they made a break for a (hopefully) safe spot. When they got there, they turned around to see the garage they were sheltering in completely engulfed in flames. Of the three, they only had two fire shelters so they sat on a road and used the two shelters to try to protect the three of them. They made it. There were some air drops while they sheltered, maybe to help protect them.
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    Check out this video of the fire flaring up and these guys making a break for their safety zone.


    There is an article from two days ago that says the badly burned guy is trying to sue the power company.

    Another article about how he eventually recovered enough to climb Mount Rainier.

    A lot to ponder.

    Heading back to Omak for the night. Moving water.
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    End of Day 12. Pretty interesting day for me.
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  3. StayFrosty

    StayFrosty Mid Life Crisis -Wish it happened 20 yrs ago Supporter

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    I can't say how awestruck I am by your ride report. Simply amazing work. Thank you for sharing!
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  4. rjnutt

    rjnutt Desert tortoise

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    +1^^^^^
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  5. CalamariKid

    CalamariKid Been here awhile Supporter

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    “A lot to ponder.” Indeed, indeed....
  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 13 347 miles

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    Omak to the Grand Coulee Dam

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    Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway
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    A lot of sealcoating going on along this path.
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    Pilot cars, delays, and hazards for motorcycles.
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    Tribal government offices.
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    Big H shaped building.
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    Columbia River
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    Big dam.
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    Visitor center.
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    They project a laser light show on the dam from the visitor center each evening.
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    When the dam was built, they had two powerplants. They added a third years later once they got some water flow and storage issues worked out. They needed more water storage to operate the third plant.
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    You can tour the dam and powerplant. Takes about an hour to do so.

    Some are worried about security at the dam. One risk they cite involves these penstocks.
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    A good view of the dam is from the overlook at Crown Point State Park.
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    One of those posts they use for measuring the movement of the dam.
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    The town of Coulee Dam started as a construction camp. About 8,000 workers built the dam with an average wage of 80 cents per hour. After the work was done the "town" was sold off to the public. Around 1,100 people live here now.
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    When you are close to the dam, it seems like too much to take in since it is so huge.
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    Woody Guthrie was hired to narrate and write some songs for a documentary about the dam project. After a bit, someone figured that Woody might be too political for the project. They hired Woody for a while and he wrote 26 songs in a month. Three of those were of his most famous including "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On", "Pastures of Plenty", and "Grand Coulee Dam". I see his name in the credits to this film.
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  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 13 Continued

    Heading down to Moses Lake

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    Continuing on the scenic byway.
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    I think this is some of that additional water/storage that they needed to run a third powerhouse at Grand Coulee Dam (not from the Columbia River).
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    Obviously the irrigation available from damming these rivers makes a difference around here. I was surprised to see the grain storage in Coulee City.
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    Turned out to be a more interesting stop than I thought it would be.
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    Soap Lake is an interesting town. Years ago some people thought the lake had medicinal qualities so a lot of resorts and spas popped up. The place was internationally known for the waters. A drought set that back for a while. During the boom times, so many people came that some slept in tents or under cars.
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    They have a lava based golf course.
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    Looks like they work pretty hard to keep the fairways in shape. They wanted to erect the world's largest lava lamp on this 10 acre site (and they might yet). Play the video to see what their dream looks like. http://soaplakelavalamp.com/
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    Moses Lake used to be an Army Air Base where they trained people to fly P-38s and B-17s. Later it became an AFB named after Major Don Larson. Larson was a fighter pilot from Yakima (also an ace) that flew 57 missions during WWII until he got shot down and killed. An early version of the B-47 took off from here and broke the coast-to-coast speed records with an average speed of 607.9 mph. For a while, a primary purpose of this base was to protect the secret Hanford Atomic Works and the Grand Coulee Dam. The base closed in 1966 but you'll sstill see some C-141, C-130, and C-17 aircraft training using the runway. When a runway and fuel distribution system had to be redone at Fairchild AFB, they moved their KC-135 fuel tankers over here until the work was done.

    Today it is a civil airport and it has a USFS tanker base.
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    No aircraft on the ramp at this time. I think they were operating a couple of those big airliner tankers out of here. We'll check one of those out later on.
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    When the military turns over an airport, they leave a lot of very valuable infrastructure.
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  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 13 Continued

    Ephrata Part I

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    The airport at Ephrata was an Army Air Corps Base back in WWII. At first it was used to support aerial gunnery training in the area. Later it was used for group training for B-17s with new planes being delivered from Boeing.
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    I saw a PBY on the ramp in an aerial.
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    This hangar was one of those used in the movie when they filmed the Flat Rock (CO) air tanker training base scenes. They built the small house for Dorinda (Holly Hunter) on the field.
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    This hangar is the one that had the Flat Rock signage and had the air tankers parked out front.
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    Some gliders here.
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    Also a Civil Air Patrol training center.
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    But this is what I really wanted to see. It is the PBY that previously served as an air tanker and was used in the movie Always.
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    Looks like it could use some new fabric.
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    PBY in action.


    Better shot of the hangar used for the Flat Rock training base.
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    Speaking of hangars.
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  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 13 Continued

    Ephrata Part II

    Some of the training drop scenes in the Flat Rock segment were filmed on a nearby ranch. I headed over there to take a look.

    I was surprised to see grain growing in the desert. Once again a little water goes a long way.
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    Heading out to locate the ranch.
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    Some of the flying scenes were down in a canyon and were filmed out here. The scenes with the pylons/flags and ammo bunker were shot at the airport.
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    This is the Billingsley Ranch that hosted the movie scenes for the training air drops. Quite a spread.
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    Corn growing in the desert.
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    These frost fans are sometimes engaged to prevent cold air from settling into an orchard where it might damage the fruit. They mix warmer air from an inversion layer with the colder air. Each fan covers 10-13 acres.
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  10. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    It's a shame that PBY is wasting away.
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  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 13 Continued

    Wenatchee Heli-Rappelers Part I

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    Wenatchee is known as "The Apple Capitol of the World". Stemilt Growers is based here. They are the largest fresh market sweet cherry shipper in the world. They are also one of the largest grower-packer-shippers of apples, pears, cherries, and stone fruit. They shipped over 20 million boxes of fruit in a year.
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    This is the base part of the airport. The airport itself is named for Clyde "Upside-Down" Pangborn. Clyde and another guy made the first non-stop trans-Pacific flight back in '31 starting in Japan and inadvertently ending here. Clyde wanted to document his flight to ensure he collected the prize so he took still and moving pix. Some of those were of Japanese Navy installations which got him thrown in the pokey in Japan. After paying $1,000 fine they told him he could leave but if he ever came back he and his airplane would be taken into custody long term. Pangborn had super charts prepared that were stolen by the Black Dragon Society in Japan because they wanted a Japanese pilot to claim the honor and prize for the flight. Pangborn significantly overloaded his plane with fuel and took off. He was supposed to drop his gear to eliminate some drag but they didn't eject properly which caused him to have to climb out on a strut (barefoot) at 14,000 feet to release them. Then he was a little sloppy transferring fuel between tanks so his engine quit when starved for fuel. The plane had no starter so Clyde had to dive down to 1,400 feet to turn the prop to start the plane. They couldn't land where they intended due to fog. They almost smacked into Mount Ranier. In the end they had to belly land at Wenatchee.
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    Aerial showed a Chinook parked on a closed runway with the contractor support. A different helicopter is parked there now.
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    Older version descender.
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    Firefighters rappel down first. Then their tools and a couple of days of supply are lowered down to them.
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    Locker room. Note the helicopter rotor blade being used as a bench.
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    Briefing and training room.
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    They make a lot of their own gear.
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    Real men and women know how to sew.
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  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 13 Continued

    Wenatchee Heli-Rappelers Part II

    Fitness is very important.
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    Supplies/resupply.
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    Good old MREs. Some stations put together their own meals with a combination of freeze-dried and off the shelf grocery items as it is cheaper and they like it better. Sometimes they get fresh food delivered to them on bigger/longer jobs.
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    This firefighter had been a sawyer on a hotshot crew so he had a big interest in saws. Note the bar length on some of these saws. Obviously we are in the northwest.
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    Saws are carefully maintained - just like a soldier maintains his/her weapons. Some saws are up to 25 years old.
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    Status board on the maintenance of saws.
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    Saw packed to be lowered to firefighters. Fuel and an extra chain inside as well.
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    At the end of the season they take the saws down to some basic components, clean them, assemble them, run them as a quality check, and then purge them for storage. I asked how long it took to sharpen a chain in the field. About 20 minutes would get it back into working shape. Keep in mind these are long chains.
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    Standing by.
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    This is parked where the Chinook was in the aerial. This is rigged for water drops.
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    Note the contractor fuel truck ready to deploy.
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    Loaded and ready to go.
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    Contractor shop supports the helicopter. In some cases maintenance support is on site. In some other cases, maintenance support is at a more central location to several sites. Either the mechanic goes to the aircraft or the aircraft goes to the mechanic.
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    As before, additional firefighter stuff or a command center that can be relocated closer to the fire.
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    A video from Salmon-Challis that we visited earlier.
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  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 13 Continued

    On to Yakima and the end of the day.

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    Not sure what it was, but I was hot on its trail.
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    Cashmere seems like a nice town. There is a climbing area near here and a premier mountain bike trail.
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    On part of the Stevens Pass Greenway. (another scenic byway)
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    Leavenworth decided to style themselves after a Bavarian village. I took some pix of things like the forest service, McDonald's, and downtown buildings as I rode through town. Turns out I had camera trouble and only got a single picture.
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    Here is one I borrowed from Wiki that shows things a little better.
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    Swung past a base at the airport in Ellensburg.
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    It looked like a lot of firefighters deployed via this base.
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    Ellensburg is where Brendon Adams grew up to be the world's tallest teen. The kid had an inversion of the 12th chromosome so he grew like a weed. When he was 13, and 7' 4.5", they made an attempt to stop his growth. I guess it slowed it down. The kid made it to 7' 8" by the time he was nineteen. Without the treatment they figure he would have topped 8'. A few years later some other kid took his record by coming in at 7' 8".

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    Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway A really nice ride.
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    Speaking of ranges, the Yakima Training Center is nearby.
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    This training center is a big maneuver area for the military. The place also had a signals intelligence outfit that intercepted communications from satellites and the like. That station was reported in the news to have moved but some think they are still collecting SIGINT. All speculation in the news and wiki. :dunno
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    Yakima calls for a picture of artillery firing there. :D
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    Hops
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    End of day in Yakima. More on Yakima tomorrow.
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  14. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

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    All caught up Brian!!

    Loving it :thumb

    Shane
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  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 14 391 Miles

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    Starting Out, Yakima and 30 Mile Memorial at Naches

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    Yakima started up in 1865. When the railroad came through it by-passed the original site so over 100 buildings were moved with horses and rollers to where the depot was established. When Mount St. Helens erupted, it caused near zero visibility here and the ash quickly took down the wastewater treatment plant. Floyd Paxton is from here. He invented the notched plastic tag used around the world for sealing bags of bread. AMA racer and Hall-of-Famer Jim Pomeroy was from here. Sam Kinison was from here as well.

    Mount Rainier showing a little today.
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    Cub Crafters is here at the airport. They'll build you one.
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    Back in the day they had an electric trolley system in town. Now it is a museum.
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    At one time they had 44 miles of track. Now they are down to 5.
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    The UP had it for a while as a feeder system for freight. The UP checked out in '85 and donated the stuff to the city. The city scored a couple of trolley cars from Portugal and now operates the system as a tourist attraction.
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    Old school wooden fruit boxes stack up. These are piled up in many places. The new ones are plastic.
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    Naches Ranger Station. There is another memorial to the 30 Mile Fire fatalities there.
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    This is an elk feeding station where you can see elk close up.
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  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 14 Continued

    Let's go poking around Mount Rainier.

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    Pretty scenic and entertaining riding out this way.
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    A little cool up here.
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    Things aren't looking too good for getting a look at Mount Rainier.
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  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 14 Mount Rainier Continued

    Typical National Park line.
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    Not too encouraging for trying to get a look at the peak.
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    Rainier is 14,411' and is the highest mountain in the State of Washington.
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    You can get up to about 6,400' at Sunrise Point which means there is a lot of mountain to look up to when you get there . . . that is, on a clear day.
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    This spot is open from early July to early September.
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    Rainier is considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanos in the world. It is an active volcano. 80,000 people and their homes are at risk in Rainiers hazard zones.
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    A couple of climbers die here each year (on average). They recently had a rescue operation.

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    Rainier is one of 16 Decade Volcanoes that have been identified around the world.

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    If Rainier blows it is going to mess stuff up from Vancouver to 'Frisco.
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    Rainier had some eruptions in the 1800s.
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    Well, it is nice to tour the place before the volcano blows. . .
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  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I'm taking a break on the report for a couple of days as I am scheduled to participate in some State Emergency Management exercise. Last time I wrote an article for the front page of ADVrider related to a search and rescue exercise I was involved in. This time I'll still be in the field but will be talking on the radio to planes and helicopters and to ground units to try to coordinate their efforts on some search and rescue work. I figured this bit of information might amuse some of the people I interviewed along the way in the course of this report. Good thing I "refreshed" on some of this stuff in the course of working on this trip. :D
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  19. rjnutt

    rjnutt Desert tortoise

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    Just thinking about ICS, NIMS and all the other acronyms gives me a headache!
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  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Yeah, I had to do a couple of FEMA courses related to that. :lol3
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